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Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 66:



"( ) all the parties to the retrial agree otherwise;"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 67:


    After Clause 118, insert the following new clause—


"INCREASE IN SENTENCES FOR AGGRAVATION RELATED TO OCCUPATION
(1) This section applies where the court is considering the seriousness of an offence committed in any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (2).
(2) Those circumstances are—
(a) that, at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the legitimate occupation of the victim, or
(b) that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly)—
(i) by hostility towards persons who have a particular legitimate occupation, or
(ii) by hostility towards that occupation.
(3) The court—
(a) must treat the fact that the offence was committed in any of those circumstances as an aggravating factor, and
(b) must state in open court that the offence was committed in such circumstances.
(4) It is immaterial for the purposes of paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2) whether or not the offender's hostility is also based, to any extent, on any other factor not mentioned in that paragraph.
(5) In this section "legitimate occupation" includes any legal employment, trade or pastime."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment follows from a discussion we had at the Report stage on what is now Clause 118. It relates to the introduction of an increase in sentences for crimes in which the disability or sexual orientation of the victims were the motivation. The principal argument then made was that there should not be an increase in sentences related to such specific circumstances, but that we should make it much more general, if not totally general, that where a crime is intended to cause

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fear to a class of people beyond the immediate victims, that fact should be taken into account in the sentencing.

The particular instance on which we concentrated was the many scientists, researchers and others, down to laboratory technicians, who are in daily fear for their safety and that of their families as a result of the activities of the animal rights activists. The Minister seemed to prefer limiting the provision to individual circumstances; to wish there to be a significant period and volume of suffering on behalf of some identifiable group in society, rather than making it a general crime. She preferred that there should be some established misery or mischief which then required to be dealt with.

I have cast this clause in the mould of Clause 118 with a view to tackling the particular mischief that is being done by the animal rights activists. As a member of the committee of inquiry into the legislation on scientific procedures on animals, I saw that such mischief was causing a damaging reaction among scientists as a whole. Few are prepared to speak out about what they are doing and few are prepared to admit public scrutiny into what they do. We lose a great deal of contact and understanding of science in that way and we lose the ability reasonably to criticise what people are doing on our behalf. That is all because of the activities of a small number of people who are determined to spread terror in the lives of ordinary people—those who, almost without exception, are intent on doing good for the rest of us and whose activities the vast majority of us support.

It is not acceptable that we do not remedy that ill when we are prepared to remedy the ill of crimes motivated by someone's disability. I have never come across that, although I have frequently come across people who are terrorised because they are involved with animals. It has been going on a long time and it is extremely painful. It is slowly doing the country a great deal of damage because this is becoming a difficult place in which to conduct pharmaceutical research. It is also doing a great deal of damage to society that it should be losing touch with an important moral aspect of the way we choose to treat animals. It is shrouded in secrecy because anything that comes out in the public domain is likely to result in attacks on individuals.

I would like to see the Government taking steps to remedy the situation. If the amendment offers them the opportunity to do so in their preferred manner, I would be delighted if they would take a step back and say that they want to look at it as a general circumstance in which sentences should be increased. However, it is tabled in response to what the Minister said on Report. I suspect that we have left it late in the day to succeed on this occasion, but if I fail I shall certainly return to the matter in the next criminal justice Bill—and I am confident that that will be quite soon. I beg to move.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who was kind enough to draw my attention to his amendment on this matter. It is in line

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with the amendment moved on Report, when the Minister was kind enough to incorporate our suggestion as part of the Government's amendment.

As one who succeeded in convincing the Government on the matter of aggravation based on race, gender or disability of any kind, it would follow logically that aggravation based on hostility to one's employment must merit some consideration. I am aware that aggravation based on race, gender or disability carries weight because one cannot change any one of those factors. That may not be the same in the case of employment.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has identified an issue which merits consideration. It would be helpful to know whether the courts have adequate powers to deal with those who engage in activities, often involving violence, because of their occupation. There are many occupations with which we may disagree but, if they are legitimate, those undertaking them must receive the state's protection. How can we ensure that that is the case in relation to the activities mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas? Can the Minister tell us whether the existing law provides a higher tariff to deal with what we describe as some of the "drawbacks" for people involved in such activities?

4 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas for bringing forward this amendment. As he said, it is a natural progression from the amendments tabled by the Government on Report in response to points raised earlier in this House. I recall that at that time the Minister was very careful to point out that the amendments which she moved on that occasion might tend to be an "open sesame" to other people, who might find that other categories of persons should also properly be given the same protection. My noble friend was right to draw attention to that.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, questioned whether those people were in the same category as those who cannot change what they are by way of their gender, sexuality or race. I believe he is right to say that we need a full debate on these matters. One could argue, too, that it would be completely wrong for someone to have to change his occupation because of an illegal activity against him. In the past, the Government have maintained a robust stance on the matter of intimidation of those who carry out a lawful occupation. I fully anticipate that the Minister will repeat that commitment today.

My noble friend has raised an important matter. I welcome the fact that, in moving this amendment, he will trigger a full debate over the coming months. Like him, I rather suspect that waiting in the wings may be a government Bill which will be a perfect vehicle for that debate.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will be disappointed in that there will be no passing bus upon

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which they can leap. As your Lordships know, on Report in the Lords, the Government amended the Bill to extend the current statutory duty on sentencers to increase sentences for offences aggravated by the victim's race and religion so that offences aggravated by hostility towards the victim because of his or her sexual orientation or disability are also included.

In moving those amendments, I made it clear that we had been satisfied that there were data upon which we could operate which justified such a change. It was with pleasure that we were able to seek to address an ill which had been substantiated in such a clear way. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would extend that duty to cases where the offence is motivated by hatred of the victim because of his occupation, legal employment, trade or pastime. I understand the anxiety in relation to those matters, as I understand the noble Lord's reasons for tabling his amendment.

However, we do not believe that this is the right way to go about addressing this issue. Our intention in introducing the provision for hate crimes on Report was to send a clear message that these very serious crimes, motivated by prejudice because of something fundamental and unchangeable about the victim, will not be tolerated. Crimes motivated because of the occupation of the victim do not fall into quite the same category.

Perhaps I may make it clear that the Government condemn extremists who seek to intimidate and harass those who carry out lawful businesses. However, there is a fundamental difference between this type of targeting and hate crimes. The former is not motivated by hatred of an individual because of a personal characteristic or fundamental belief but by a dislike of the job that he does or the pastimes in which he chooses to engage—that is, something external to the person which, at first blush, may not be immediately obvious in the same way as are colour, disability and the other issues.

We have made it plain that our minds will remain open to considering other situations in which similar provisions to those in Clauses 117 and 118 could be applied. However, we must be clear about the matter to which we are referring. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will know, sentencers can, and will continue to be able to, take into account all the circumstances of an offence when considering its seriousness and increase the sentence accordingly. That might well include the type of hostility described in the amendment. It is important that the courts are aware of the problems of animal rights extremism, and we are working across government to raise awareness of the issues among the judiciary. Therefore, we believe that sufficient powers exist to deal appropriately with that type of crime and, in due course, I shall encourage the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

In order to encourage him even further, I want to respond to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. He asked whether we now have adequate powers to deal with such people and whether the tariff is high enough. We believe that the answer is

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"Yes". Under existing legislation, the police have a range of powers to deal with extremists. The Public Order Act 1986 gives the police powers to act in respect of a range of criminal offences relating to public disorder—for example, when threatening or abusive behaviour or harassment occurs.

We strengthened existing legislation to deal with animal rights extremists in the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 by amending the Protection from Harassment Act and the Malicious Communications Act, and we introduced the new power under Section 42 for the police to direct protestors away from residential premises. As noble Lords will be aware, we introduced amendments to the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, which is about to complete its passage through Parliament, to extend the offence of aggravated trespass to cover buildings and to amend the definition of the number of persons who constitute a public assembly from 20 or more to two or more. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, participated in that debate. On that occasion, we explained that it was important to remove that limit because of the way in which it had been used so creatively and destructively by those who wish to cause mayhem in the manner described.

Those amendments will provide the police with additional powers to deal with protestors who occupy or invade buildings, and it will enable the police to impose conditions on smaller groups of protestors who conduct intimidatory protests outside targeted premises. It is a common tactic of animal rights protestors to demonstrate in numbers far fewer than 20. We are keen to ensure that the police have the right powers to do their job and we shall consider further measures as appropriate. But it is vital that changes in the law are translated into practical difference on the ground. That is why we are working across government to ensure an effective and consistent approach to enforcement of the law both between the police forces and across the whole criminal justice system.

We believe that the additional provisions that we have made in those Bills very much strengthen the hand of those who wish to enforce proper conduct and safety for those who are subjected to the extremist actions of animal rights protestors. The right bus was the Anti-social Behaviour Bill: we got on it; we paid our fare; and it has taken us to the right destination. Therefore, we suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that he is right to say that this matter will wait for another day. I hope that that occasion will not be the next criminal justice Bill, whenever that occurs in the next millennium.


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